ROLEX DEPARTURE: Martha Nype Webster has left Rolex Watch USA, sources told WWD. Company executives could not be reached for comment. Webster spent 19 years at W magazine, rising to vice president and corporate publisher for fine jewelry and watches before moving to Rolex as director of communications in 2001, where she oversaw all advertising, marketing and public relations in the U.S. Webster, who is married to Roberto Coin’s U.S. president, Peter Webster, could not be reached for comment at press time.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

SPIEGEL’S DWINDLING OPTIONS: Distressed catalog marketer Spiegel Group said Tuesday it expects to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection “in the near future,” unless it is able to quickly find alternative sources of financing. Spiegel made the acknowledgement in connection with its disclosure that, because of a payout, or early amortization, an event triggered by its inability to meet certain minimum-performance criteria on several asset-backed notes, monthly excess cash flow will be diverted to repay principal to investors of certain of its securitized transactions that underlie its credit card business. As reported, Spiegel’s special-purpose bank subsidiary First Consumers National Bank on March 7 discontinued charging privileges on all of its MasterCard and Visa accounts. FCNB also has discontinued reimbursing Eddie Bauer, Spiegel Catalog and Newport News for charges made with the private label credit cards it issued to the Spiegel-related firms.

WANT FREEDOM FRIES WITH THAT?: Anti-French grumblings among Capitol Hill conservatives continues. On Tuesday, Rep. Bob Ney (R., Ohio) ordered three House office building cafeterias to change their menus to read “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” instead of french fries and french toast. Ney called his edict symbolic, “to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France.” However, such pronouncements don’t appear to be gaining traction. Bush administration officials continue to proclaim France its friend, despite the country’s opposition at the United Nations to a U.S.-led war with Iraq.

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